Imaging brain development in the Childhood to Adolescence Transition Study (iCATS)

Project Details

There are good reasons to suspect that pubertal hormonal changes affecting cognitive and affective systems in the brain, and the resultant psychological changes, most powerfully explain the emergence of symptoms of mental disorder in adolescence. However the extant human literature on the relationship between pubertal processes and brain development is preliminary at best, and is often confounded by aspects of pubertal development such as stage, timing and chronological age. The aim of this study is to investigate the impact of early exposure to puberty on brain and behavioural development during the adrenal and gonadal phases of development. iCATS will examine the effects of pubertal timing on brain development and mental health in a cohort of approximately ~120 individuals assessed from age 9 to age 16 years using a longitudinal design. Participants in the study were selected from a larger cohort (see based on a distribution of pubertal development.


A/Prof Sarah Whittle, Investigator
Dr Julian Simmons,  Investigator
Prof Nick Allen, Investigator
Dr Paul Dudgeon, Investigator
Prof George Patton, Investigator
Dr Marc Seal, Investigator
Dr Michelle Byrne, Project Manager (2012-2014)
Mariana Antoniou, Researh Assistant
Carolina Barbosa, student (MPsych/PhD)
Marjolein Barendse, student (PhD)


  • Murdoch Childrens Reseach Institute
  • University of Oregon


  • ARC

Research Outcomes

Delany, F.M., Byrne, M.L., Whittle, S., Simmons, J.G., Olsson, C., Mundy, L.K., Patton, G.C. and Allen, N.B., 2016. Depression, immune function, and early adrenarche in children. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 63, pp.228-234.

Simmons, J.G., Badcock, P.B., Whittle, S.L., Byrne, M.L., Mundy, L., Patton, G.C., Olsson, C.A. and Allen, N.B., 2016. The lifetime experience of traumatic events is associated with hair cortisol concentrations in community-based children. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 63, pp.276-281.

Murray, C.R., Simmons, J.G., Allen, N.B., Byrne, M.L., Mundy, L.K., Seal, M.L., Patton, G.C., Olsson, C.A. and Whittle, S., 2016. Associations between dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels, pituitary volume, and social anxiety in children. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 64, pp.31-39.

Whittle, S., Simmons, J.G., Byrne, M.L., Strikwerda-Brown, C., Kerestes, R., Seal, M.L., Olsson, C.A., Dudgeon, P., Mundy, L., Patton, G., Allen, N.B. (In Press, Accepted 9th Feb 2015). Associations between early adrenarche, affective brain function and mental health in children. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, nsv014.

P Klauser, S Whittle, J Simmons, M Byrne, L Mundy, G Patton, A Fornito, N Allen. (2015). Reduced frontal white matter volume in children with early onset of adrenarche. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 52: 111-118

Research Group

Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre Research

Faculty Research Themes

Child Health

School Research Themes

Child Health in Medicine, Neuroscience & Psychiatry

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre